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US and allies tell citizens to leave Ukraine as Russia could invade ‘at any time’

  • The United States, Japan and Australia are urging their citizens to leave
  • US says airstrike likely to be first
  • New deployments on Russian border detected by satellite
  • US to send 3,000 more troops to Poland – sources
  • Moscow says response to its demands shows ‘disrespect’

WASHINGTON/MOSCOW, Feb 11 (Reuters) – The United States and its allies have urged their citizens to leave Ukraine immediately to avoid a Russian invasion, including a possible airstrike, which Washington says could come at any time. moment.

Moscow has accused Western nations of spreading lies to distract from their own acts of aggression.

The US and Europe stepped up warnings of an impending attack as the Kremlin, jostling for more influence in post-Cold War Europe, rejected a joint EU-NATO diplomatic response to his demands for reduced tensions as disrespectful.

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Russia has amassed more than 100,000 troops on the Ukrainian border but denies plans to invade.

US officials, while pushing for diplomacy, have said Russia may invade before the conclusion of the Winter Olympics on Feb. 20 and may seek to seize the capital Kiev and other cities.

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said Americans could not expect a military evacuation if they remained in Ukraine and had to leave within 48 hours.

“We continue to see signs of Russian escalation, including the arrival of new forces on the Ukrainian border,” Sullivan told reporters. “We are in the window where an invasion could begin at any time.”

“If a Russian attack on Ukraine continues, it will likely start with aerial bombardments and missile attacks which obviously could kill civilians regardless of nationality,” he said.

Australia and New Zealand have become the latest countries to urge their citizens to leave as soon as possible, joining Britain, Japan, Latvia, Norway and the Netherlands. Israel said it was evacuating relatives of embassy staff.

Russia wants guarantees from the West, including a promise not to deploy missiles near its borders, not to join NATO for Ukraine and to reduce the alliance’s military infrastructure.

The West describes Russia’s key demands as “non-starting” but is willing to talk about arms control and confidence-building measures.

After Sullivan’s briefing at the White House, Russia’s deputy ambassador to the UN, Dmitry Polyanskiy, appeared to scoff at his remarks:

“Some reasonable people hoped the hysteria stoked by the US would lessen,” he posted on Twitter. “Maybe they put a spell on it, because the alarmists have clearly had a second wind. Our troops are still in our territory and I wonder if the United States will invade Ukraine itself – someone one has to, after such a panic campaign.”

The EU and NATO alliance delivered a joint response to Russia this week on behalf of their member states as diplomatic efforts continue to try to defuse the crisis.

Russia said on Friday it expected individual responses from each country and called the collective response a “sign of diplomatic rudeness and disrespect”.

He later said that Western countries, with the help of the media, were spreading false information about his intentions in an attempt to distract from their own aggressive actions.

‘MASSIVE CONSEQUENCES’

Washington will send 3,000 more troops to Poland in the coming days to try to reassure NATO allies, four US officials told Reuters. They are in addition to the 8,500 already on alert for deployment in Europe if necessary. Read more

Earlier, commercial satellite images from a US company showed new Russian military deployments at several sites near the border.

Biden told NBC News on Thursday that things in Ukraine “could get crazy fast” and held a crisis call on Friday with the leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, the United Kingdom. Poland and Romania, as well as the heads of NATO and the EU.

The leaders agreed to make coordinated efforts to deter Russian aggression, including being prepared to impose ‘massive consequences and grave economic costs’ if they chose military escalation, the White House said after the call .

US officials believe the crisis could reach a crisis point, with tougher rhetoric from Moscow, six Russian warships reaching the Black Sea and more Russian military hardware arriving in Belarus.

“We continue to see very disturbing signs of Russian escalation, including the arrival of new forces on the Ukrainian border,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Stocks extended their decline, with the S&P 500 index falling about 1.9%. Gold and oil prices rose. The ruble fell to its lowest level against the dollar since March 2020. read more

Moscow said it could take unspecified “military-technical” measures if its demands were not met. This week, it launched joint military exercises in neighboring Belarus and naval exercises in the Black Sea.

Diplomatic efforts have so far failed to yield results.

Quadripartite talks in Berlin between Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France on Thursday did not advance.

Russia openly mocked British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss during her visit on Thursday and there was no breakthrough after talks between Putin and Macron earlier in the week.

“I’m not going to speculate on (Putin’s) motives, intentions or, at this point, his decisions,” Sullivan said. “All I will say is we are ready anyway.”

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Reports from Reuters offices; Written by Peter Graff and Costas Pitas; Editing by William Maclean, Rosalba O’Brien and Daniel Wallis

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